Published: October 2007
Genre: fiction, contemporary / Young Adult
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.
I picked the book up for the first time back when it came out but for some reason, I only read the first casette. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying it, but I just didn’t pick it up again and then just of forgot about it and put it on hold. A couple of months ago, and given the Netflix adaptation, it brought the book back to my attention and I had it in my radar, and decided to give it a chance.
I’m not going to lie, I did enjoyed the book, but I was also disappointed; it was just not what I expected. I didn’t have particular expectations about it, even though everybody seemed to love it and think it was such a shocking and needed read. It wasn’t any of that for me.
I liked a lot of things, like the format of the book. From the synopsis, or if you’ve read the book, you know that our main character, Clay, receives a bunch of casettes, 13 in total, from a girl from his school who had committed suicide. Consequently, and cleverly, the book is divided like that, by casettes, and it alternates between Hannah’s narration (the girl from the tapes) to Clay. Having thirteen tapes was also a nice touch. Thirteen is said to be the number for bad luck /though for me it’s good luck), so it seemed appropiate she recorded 13 tapes. And given the nature of the book, I figured I could listen to it on audiobook, which was a great experience since there are two narrators, one for Clay and then one for Hannah, which made me invested in the story and easier for me to follow.
As I mentioned, the book is told through the recordings but also through Clay’s point of view while listening to the tapes. I liked the idea of having his reactions and his opinions about what we were listening to, but I wasn’t very happy with the outcome. Especially at the beginning I felt like his parts were unnecessary; I imagined I would get a better view of what had happened thanks to the dual point of view, but basically, it was just him wondering where he could go to listen to the tapes. Which is what I imagined the others did, and it’s what I was doing. I liked, however, how he did not spoiled his part in the tapes, or any of the story, moreover, it kept me uessing about what it was, but I felt like his parts contributed nothing to me (again, mostly at the beginning, later on, his parts were more interesting).
Then we have the plot, the book itself. I feel bad or like it’s wrong to say it disappointed me, but it did. I expected more; more drama, more twists and just more. And yes, I feel like saying that is completely wrong, because you can’t never say something like that is not enough or valid; I’m not saying that, what I mean is that given the buzz, hype and polemics surrounding this book, I expected the resolution to be different,but it wasn’t, it was “lighter” which was also realistic. Of course, that’s not always the case, but I’m referring to the book as a whole, in general.
Let’s talk a bit about Clay and Hannah. For the most part of the book, I didn’t know how to feel about Clay, partly because he was just there. He could be very judgy and mean and the completely nice and sweet (everybody said how he was such a good person, which I didn’t exactly always see) and that confused me. The part that shocked me most about his character was how he suddenly was in love with Hannah, like where did that love come from? I expected that in the story, for him to be in love with Hannah, but we got no indication of that for the first part of the book and then suddenly he kept saying things about how he would have been there for Hannah if she had just asked because he liked her and bla bla bla. Really? Then why were you acting so cold until now? Why didn’t you react differenly? (I’m not saying he should have cried or done something).
And following my statement about him being judgy I wanted to mentioned something that caught my attention. Not necessarily as a critique to Clay, but something a lot of people assume and I needed to address (I wish I could have saved the quote): Hannah should have gone to a therapist. Sure, that could have helped her, but the key word is “could”. I’ve gone to some therapist and let me just tell you, they haven’t worked for me. Of course, everyone is different and every experience is too, but . Depression is not as easy as a headache, there’s no formula for it, you cannot take a pill and then be cured. It’s a process, and it requires a lot of time, effort, help and assistance. Like, a lot. Andy, why does he assume she didn’t? Why does he assume that would have changed anything?
Now this paragraph will contain one spoiler, because I need to talk about acertain part of the book, which is related to the following quote:
Then one of the girls, her name doesn’t matter here, said what everyone else was thinking. “It’s like whoever wrote this note just wants attention. If they were serious, they would have told us who they were.”
REALLY? A little bit of context: in class they had like a little box of confessions where they put things they want to discuss, so Hannah, near the end of the book, and when she was down, wrote a note saying she was considering suicide. I was happy that part was included but not excited about how it was handled. Sure, Hannah tackled the issue about that, but she was the only one who did. Not Clay (not especially), not the other students, and not even the teacher. This is “just” a quote, but one that I feel speaks about one of my critiques: the book tackles important topics and doesn’t shy from it but sometimes those do nothing to change standards people have about suicide, depression or rape. It exposes and judges other topics, sure, like privacy and bullying, but I feel like if you want to talk about such heavy topics, you can’t just mention them and expect your readers to know what’s right and wrong, because sadly, some don’t.
No more spoilers here.
In short, Thirteen Reasons Why is an important read that opens a lot of discussions, for which I’m very grateful, but the enjoyment of it, the resolution and the story itself was a lot more different than I expected and it didn’t particularly touched me or flood me with emotions. iHowever, I was glad to have read it and most importantly, glad it was written so that people could talk about it.
What about you, have you read Thirteen Reasons Why? Do you agree with my points? Did you enjoy it? And the tv show, have you watched it? Would you recommend it?